A hunter's reward for patient and persistent stalking.

What it is to have hunted

The morning’s very first sight would have stirred any hunter. The sun hadn’t done more than infuse a purple glow above the horizon, but it was enough to silhouette a lone doe halfway up a hill. She stood there, occasionally turning her head. You couldn’t help watching her.

No point stalking, though: the wind blew straight towards her and the open ground left barely any cover. There’d be easier opportunities. There always are in this area. It’s extremely rare to find no deer here, so failure has almost always been my fault. As the light improved, deer became visible.

Roos spoiled the first stalk, and two deer got away. Then two more. Poor judgment of distance made me pass up one shot that would have worked, and I kicked myself.

No more deer lurked in the usual haunts. The doe silhouetted earlier on the hill was still there, well over a kilometre back. She’d be the only chance now as the sun rose higher.

From here, it’d be easy to skirt the wind. On this side of the hill, there were just enough trees for limited concealment, but too many roos. There’s a trick to the roos. Even though no one shoots them here, they’ll keep their distance, sometimes even spook. The deer know the signs and watch closely, usually picking the difference between a mob just moving and a mob moving away from something. So you walk slowly, casually, changing direction so they don’t all flee the same way. Sometimes it helps.

The doe watched them hopping, knowing things weren’t right. She moved back and forth. When I peered around the last tree, only her head and neck showed above the rise. Still more roos between us. I stood frozen like a tree when she eventually looked straight at me, and I began to strain as minutes dragged by until she finally decided I was not a problem. Then she turned and left.

When I got up there, she appeared way below, skipping for the trees. Damn. Just under 200m away, she paused and this time my internal rangefinder said shoot. I didn’t waste the chance.

Some days you push it right to the last chance. They can be the great hunts. You pit hard-earned skills against wary game, put knowledge of the animals and the ground to maximum use, rely on hurried marksmanship for ultimate success – it doesn’t fall into place easily and you blow chances along the way, but persistence and focus earn their reward.

You have hunted.




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Mick Matheson

Mick grew up with guns and journalism, and has included both in his career. A life-long hunter, he has long-distant military experience and holds licence categories A, B and H. In the glory days of print media, he edited six national magazines in total, and has written about, photographed and filmed firearms and hunting for more than 15 years.